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It had been nearly 600 days since Redskins President Bruce Allen took questions from reporters in a group setting, the longest such drought for the top decision-maker of any NFL front office. The streak ended Tuesday. How did you celebrate?
In fairness to Allen, anything he said to reporters at the Senior Bowl would have been dissected into mockery. He couldn’t win that news conference, because he has lost the benefit of the doubt. He could have stood before reporters and said, “I abjectly apologize and will now tirelessly atone for every misstep this franchise has made since 2009; it’s all my fault, and I unquestionably now owe a debt to Redskins fans that I will clearly never be able to repay,” and he would have been criticized for using too many adverbs. Man, it’s hard to stop using adverbs. Theoretically apologetic Bruce and I share that problem.
And much of what he said didn’t cause a stir.
* He discussed the future of Alex Smith. “It’s a tough thing for him and his family, but all the love and care has helped him quite a bit,” Allen said. “We’ll see where it goes. We’re optimistic. If anyone can come back, it’s Alex.”
* He discussed the decision to sign Reuben Foster. “I’m not going to get into what we investigated, but we felt comfortable that we knew the player,” Allen said. “And I should say we knew the person involved. Reuben has demonstrated since he has been with us that he wants to play football, he wants to do things the right way. He wants to be a valuable member, not only of the Redskins on the field, but off the field as well. We’ll see what happens with him.”
* He discussed Washington’s next stadium. “This stadium isn’t just going to be for a few years; this is a lifetime commitment for the Redskins,” he said. “It’s going to be where the Redskins will play for 50 years. Our goal is to build the best sports stadium in the world, and we believe that’s going to happen.”
But the thing that stood out was his take on his football team, which got off to a strong start this season, was handcuffed by impossible quarterback injuries, and struggled to a 7-9 finish for the second straight year. Allen argued “the direction of the team was good,” that fans “saw a good football team” before the injuries took over, that everyone owns the 7-9 record, that Doug Williams and his staff need to find some better players, and coaches need to put them in position to win.
“We’re in the middle of the pack, and we’ve been in the middle of the pack the last three seasons,” he said. “It means you’re close. It means you’re close to being better. We have to find the right ingredients and right chemistry to do that.”
“We were two games out of the playoffs,” he said. “And no matter how you want to look at the season, we were two games out of it. And the year before we were one game out of it, and the year before we were one game out of it. So we have to find the right ingredients to get over that hump.”
Uh. I’m not sure about that. Even if they were close to competing for a playoff spot, were they close to competing for something grander than that? In an era of explosive offense, did Washington’s early-season success feel predictive of greatness? The four conference finalists this season had 13, 13, 12 and 11 wins; Washington had 7. The four conference finalists last season had 13, 13, 13 and 10 wins; Washington had 7. (And the Redskins were not a game out of it last year, as Allen said; they finished three games behind the final NFC playoff team.) The four finalists in 2016 had 14, 11, 11 and 10 wins; Washington had 8.
So 10 of the last 12 semifinalists won at least 11 games. Washington hasn’t won 11 games in 27 years. Close? Close to what? A first-round playoff loss?
“There [are] very few executives in the NFL who can stand there amid a backdrop of such rampant mediocrity, and say that with a straight face,” wrote my pal Steve Czaban.
Teams go from 7 wins to 11 wins in the NFL with some regularity. They really do. So maybe Allen is right. But the still-healthy team that got destroyed in New Orleans this year didn’t feel close. The team that went 0-3 against the NFC finalists in 2017 didn’t, either.
This is semantics, but it’s also not. The Wizards became playoff regulars in the past few seasons, but were they close? The Miami Dolphins finished with the same record as Washington this season; their coach got fired. Mediocrity is an improvement for the Redskins. That doesn’t mean they’re close.
Anyhow, that’ll teach him to talk to the media. Sorry. We appreciate it. Really.